1840. London: Richard Bentley, 1840.
8vo, xvi, 439 pp. With A.L.S. bearing sketches on verso laid in (see below). 40 steel engravings and 58 woodcuts by Cruikshank. Full polished calf by Riviere, covers ruled in gilt, backstrip richly gilt, gilt dentelles, all edges gilt, navy blue coated endpapers. A very good copy, backstrip a little worn with two small chips in the crown, pages evenly age-toned due to the paperstock but with practically none of the usual foxing. Large and attractive etched bookplate of W.D. Catalani, by the Scottish artist David Young Cameron R.A., 1865-1945.
§ First collected edition; the work was previously published in 13 monthly installments. Laid in is a short A.L.S. by Ainsworth to Cruikshank dated June 29th 1873(?) from Kensal Manor House, and reading, "My dear George, An edition of the "Whims and Oddities" was published for Hood - the copyright remained with the author." Cruikshank has covered the verso of the little sheet (114 x 183mm) with doodles and sketches, showing his remarkable ability to evoke comedy with the barest of outlines. The letter is both a wonderful example of Cruikshank’s casual genius and an evocative association between the bestselling historical novelist and his chief illustrator late in their lives, when the star of each had waned.
The Tower of London, a sensationalized retelling of Lady Jane Grey's final days, was one of Ainsworth and Cruikshank's most successful collaborations. Cruikshank's dark and spooky illustrations are a clear precursor to both Sendak and Gorey.
"The minute particulars of the Tower's architecture and history were obsessively researched by both Ainsworth and Cruikshank. As the author constructed a parallel narrative of romance and antiquarian detail, the artist produced forty atmospheric engravings of events in the story and a further fifty-eight woodcuts devoted to purely architectural features, while both pestered The Governor of the Tower and the Keeper of the Regalia to visit areas that were then closed to the public while researching. As always, the author has excelled at hybridisation. Fact and fiction are skilfully blended here, resulting in a cohesive whole so complete in detail that its reputation as an authority on the history of the Tower endured as late as the 1950s. The Tower of London is also one of the few novels to be equipped with a full index. When Ainsworth began this project, the Tower was an abandoned garrison, closed in most part to the public and mutilated by modern alteration in some areas while practically falling down in others, but as the romance progressed thousands of people visited the monument to trace the places and events depicted by Ainsworth’s pen and Cruikshank's pencil. Demolition ceased due to renewed public interest, and the Tower was restored, both as one of the first Victorian museums and as a patriotic symbol in the national psyche" (Dr Stephen Carver, “The Book of Stone: Ainsworth’s Gothic History of England,” Ainsworth & Friends website, 2013). Item #123318